Music News & Reviews

5 Seconds of Summer works its way to headliner status

5 Seconds of Summer is composed of, from left, Ashton Irwin, Calum Hood, Luke Hemmings and Michael Clifford.
5 Seconds of Summer is composed of, from left, Ashton Irwin, Calum Hood, Luke Hemmings and Michael Clifford. EMI Records

Over the past year-plus, 5 Seconds of Summer has reached a level where the group plays large outdoor amphitheaters and arenas – the kinds of venues it played when the Australian group opened for One Direction on that group’s Take Me Home tour in 2013.

Suffice it to say that headlining the big stages now has been a considerably different experience than the 2013 One-D outing.

“It was really scary for us,” guitarist Michael Clifford acknowledged during a recent interview in recalling the first shows with One Direction. “When we started that tour in 2013, no one knew who we were. We kind of had to build that by getting better and better and better live. It was kind of all we cared about for a long time was just how we could become a better live band, play better and have the audience interact more and stuff like that. But coming back to like this year now, we see how many shows we played on that One-D tour and how much it helped us to like craft our performance into what we wanted it to be.”

Three years later, it’s safe to say a lot of people, particularly teen fans, know who 5 Seconds of Summer is. The group will perform Saturday night, Sept. 3, at the Toyota Amphitheatre in Wheatland.

5 Seconds of Summer’s self-titled first album in 2014 debuted at No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s album chart with first-week sales of 259,000 copies – the biggest first-week total for any CD since Daughtry’s self-titled album in 2006.

The album produced two singles that cracked the top 20 on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 chart, and the group followed up the debut album with a concert CD, “LIVESOS.”

Then last October, a second studio album, “Sounds Good Feels Good,” arrived, and it showed that 5 Seconds of Summer had sustained its popularity. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart and has since surpassed platinum – despite having failed to generate any top 20 singles on the Hot 100 chart. (“She’s Kinda Hot” stalled at No. 22.)

By any measure, it’s been a quick ascension for the group that was formed by Clifford, Luke Hemmings (vocals, guitar), Calum Hood (bass) and Ashton Irwin (drums) in Sydney, Australia, in 2011 while they were students at the same school.

The group started making waves by posting a series of videos of their band covering a series of popular tunes to Hemmings’ YouTube channel. The videos drew big numbers of viewers, including Louis Tomlinson of One Direction. In fall 2012, he posted a link on his Twitter account to the YouTube video of the acoustic version of “Gotta Get Out,” saying he’d been a fan of 5 Seconds of Summer for a while. Not long after that, One Direction offered the opening slot on its 2013 world tour to 5 Seconds of Summer.

It was a huge opportunity, but accepting the tour posed a problem.

5 Seconds of Summer considers itself a punk-pop band in the tradition of bands like Green Day and Blink-182, but aligning itself with One Direction was sure to get the band labeled a boy band/teen pop group.

“I think we had our moments of doubt in thinking about that,” Clifford said. “But honestly, we’d be so stupid not to take that (One Direction tour) up because I never thought we would be playing in venues bigger than like 1,500 in Australia. By doing that, it really opened up, the platform it gave us was just like huge.”

The 2013 One Direction tour put 5 Seconds of Summer on the pop music map worldwide and by the end of the year, the group had signed to Capitol Records, paving the way to the release in July 2014 of the self-titled debut album. Clifford said the group hopes the second album has solidified the notion that 5 Seconds of Summer is a genuine rock group and not a boy band.

“With the (first) album, we were really easing into a new type of rock or a new type of pop-rock,” he said, describing “Sounds Good Feels Good” as a bit of a curveball for fans of the first album with its punchier rock sound. “We’re kind of going to keep pushing the bar as far as we can. I think that’s what we always wanted to do, like bring guitars back to radio.”

And 5 Seconds of Summer has more of an edge to its music than the typical boy band. “Sounds Good Feels Good” amps things up a bit more than on the debut album with rockers such as “Money” and “Fly Away.” Even poppier fare such as “Hey Everybody,” “She’s Kinda Hot” and “Safety Pin” build in some big guitar riffs to go with their sugar-sweet pop hooks.

The group’s music should be big and lively enough to work well in amphitheaters.

“It’s kind of been like a massive thing for us to get to this point,” Clifford said.

5 Seconds of Summer

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3

Where: Toyota Amphitheatre, 2677 Forty Mile Road, Wheatland